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Whitstable at War - World War II

.... Preparing Inland

   

Coastal defences were just part of the anti-invasion plans. Inland, other defence systems were hastily prepared. Here we look at some of the installations deployed in the Whitstable area. 

  

Anti Tank Traps...

 

The photo below was taken in the 1950s and it shows the 2nd Whitstable Sea Scouts preparing for a parade at their HQ in the old Railway Station between the harbour's east gate and Westgate Terrace. 

  

Photo kindly supplied by Jock Harnett (Whitstable)

 

Immediately behind the scouts lie the cone-shaped anti-tank traps. I believe these may have remained until the land was redeveloped as the current day Health Centre.

 

Pillboxes

 

We have already mentioned that pillboxes were installed on the waterfront. More were added in the neighbouring countryside. Brian Smith's article gives the background.... 

   

The Pillboxes
By Brian Smith

 

 

Pillboxes throughout Britain varied in design according to the location and in some cases who built them.  Pill boxes around Whitstable were built by Robert Brett & Son of Canterbury and were based on a standard design designated FW/24.  They were flat roofed 6 sided concrete structures, the wall containing the sole doorway being longer than the other 5 sides.  

Whitstable pillboxes were either A/24s (pictured above) built to withstand small arms fire or B/24 of heavier construction to withstand a 6” shell.  Both types were garrisoned by 8 men and had firing positions or apertures for 5 Bren guns and 2 rifles.

‘A’ type walls and ceiling were 15” thick reinforced concrete, walls of the ‘B’ type 4’ 3” thick including a brick lining, the roof being concrete 2’6” thick.  A ‘Y’ shaped brick wall opposite the entrance gave protection against blast and bullets entering through either the doorway or any of the firing positions.

The two sub types also differed in plan form, the walls either side of an ‘A’ type entrance wall were at about 95o whereas those of the ‘B’ type were at about 110o giving the impression of a more regular hexagonal shape.

 

 

The two best known Whitstable pillboxes are the still existing type ‘A’s installed near the Long Reach roundabout on Thanet Way. 

Others were installed at the Harbour in the West Head area, one near the Neptune, Long Rock Swalecliffe and one at Yorkletts on the road from Seasalter Cross to Dargate.  

Although strictly not within Whitstable’s borders, two type ‘B’s could be seen on the West side of Canterbury road near the former Red Lion Pub. 

 

  

The pillbox near the Long Reach roundabout is still visible today. Originally, it was  located in an open field - just south of the Old Thanet Way (known as The Coastal Road in the past) and 50 metres west of the main Whitstable-Canterbury road....

 

 

Nowadays, the structure is closely surrounded on three sides -  by a realigned road to the city (to the left of the photo), a cutting that embraces the New Thanet Way (in the foreground) and a revamped Wraik Hill (in the background).

 

   

In putting together the Whistable at War feature, we posed the question as to whether there was a pattern to these inland fortifications. Brian Smith provided a somewhat disturbing explanation....

 

You pondered upon there being a line of pillboxes across the County.  

I don't think there was a line as such.....  More a scattering of pillboxes at strategic road points to delay any enemy advance towards London. 

There was a plan drawn up to contract the country in three stages in the event of an invasion.  Kent was to be sacrificed.  Accordingly the pill boxes were built wherever it was thought they could be effective. 

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia 

 

The Long Reach installation demonstrates Brian's point. In 1939, the Coastal Road was the main route to London from the beaches and ports of the North Kent coast. The pillbox also guarded the main route to Canterbury and the local link down Borstal Hill to Whitstable harbour.

Brian's enquiries suggest that just 11 pillboxes located in the Herne Bay and Whitstable. All were built by local company Robert Brett and Son. Six were sited in the Whitstable district. 

Such installations may have provided some comfort for local residents but, in reality, they would not have survived long in the face of a massive onslaught.

  


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